Friday, April 28, 2017

The good and the bad and Bush League


As mentioned, the WGA members have decided to strike, most likely after the end of the month as that's when our contract expires. Everybody is worried as I mentioned that the last strike which lasted 3 months, cost California anywhere from around $500 million up to a billion dollars. 

And again, because of a bunch of writers.

Because it all begins with someone who sits down at home or at an office and begins to write a story for someone. And get paid for it. That payment can be anything from a hundred dollars up to millions of dollars.

But not everyone gets a reasonable amount of money. That's where WGA comes in. They make sure their writers get paid. You remember that from last week wherein a company made my movie without paying me. 

And if I wasn't in my Canadian guild, WGC, I would have gotten it but it would have taken even more than the 14 days that it took to get "them" to pay me.

I also know of writers who aren't in WGA (or WGC - the Canadian guild) and they get very little. A friend of mine in his early 40's writes screenplays for about $2500. My minimum is around $48,000, meaning that this fee is the lowest that producers can pay. 

And if you have a good agent or a hit movie, you can make millions.

Unfortunately I didn't make millions. But I didn't write scripts for $2500. That's all you need to know about payments.

And why I'm in both guilds. Because I want more that $2500.

I sold my first script back in the mid 1980's when I came to LA and found a lovely lady who would be my agent for a year or so. I was broke and upset due to a divorce and because I write, I decided to write my anger into a script.

It was about a women's baseball club that played against small town baseball clubs. The girls would be pretty good and mostly would win. Except this one town of rednecks. Someone got killed and the girls hit the road escaping the rednecks.

But here's the difference. The girls were athletes and they fought back just as hard in their own way.

It was a pretty raw and tough script, sort of a version of Deliverance. And if you haven't seen that 1972 movie with Burt Reynolds, see it.

And I had the best title. 

Bush League.

Got it? You sure?

So I sold the script for $7000 and went back to Canada.

But when it got made there was a lot of changes, more sexual material, certainly not from me. And there was another thing; the writers.

Yes, there was a handfull of writer names that I never saw and my name was "Story by Jim Makichuk". But when I got a copy of it, the script was about 60% mine. The worst stuff was the other guys.

And they changed the title from Bush League to Blood Games. And I tried to hide any VHS copy at that time. 

You can find it somewhere online if you can. But just remember, the bad stuff wasn't mine. It's actually pretty funny. 

And the girls win.

And I had nothing to do with the cover.

See you Monday.  Maybe.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Writer's strike still not sure





The writer's strike is now ready to go. Well, not right now. If and when it does, it will be at the end of the month which, coincidentally, is the end of our contract anyways.  Our 13,000 writers voted 96%, so it's pretty obvious.

But, again, nobody knows for sure.

And as I said, of the 13,000 WGA writers, there's only a fraction who are working and I mean a fraction. I don't know for sure, but probably at most there is around 1000 working writers at most.

And then there's guys like me who aren't TV writers and who, for the most part, handle it all by themselves. Those are mostly feature film writers.

You know now that there are a lot of "series" going on but most of them are the big guys, the networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and all the others who depend on people watching television. 

But you know that there are a lot of us watching streaming series but they are different than networks. They go streaming or they also go in individual series of 8 episodes rather than the network's 22 episodes. 

That's one of the big deals there.

Network writers in TV usually get an episode or more and when there's 20 or 22 episodes. That offers at least one or two episodes to the writers. 

Now put that together in streaming and 8 episode shows gives you less money. Instead of getting maybe 2 or 3 episodes, you're getting far less. Making less money.

Showrunners are the winners even though they are also complaining but it's not hard to make around $350,000 if you're good.

But the handful of "writers" will get less. Mathematics.

That's the writer's bitch for starters.

But the big problem is how to handle that and also get a tiny piece of the billions of dollars that the studios make.

We missed out on our last strike and settled for less as streaming and 8 episodes (more or less) didn't exist as much. It was Netflix's world.

But not anymore. Hulu, Amazon and more coming every month it seems. 

And we want a piece of it.

Do I care about rich showrunners?  No. But do I care about the regular series people who won't get even close enough for a living standard.

Always about money. 

The L.A. Times says that writers lost more than $287 million on the last strike. There's also minimums we want, a whole 3% more. So what's that mean?

Minimums are the lowest paid members. If you read the WGA book, there are a lot of different payments depending on the budget of the movie or TV show. 

In other words, the bigger the show the more you get. 

And finally, there's the health care plan. I didn't use WGA healthcare but do have a pension plan that works reasonably well.

So let's see what happens.

I'll be back in a few days to show you how all of this began.

Bing Crosby?

 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Writer's strike ...




First of all, there might be a writer's strike today and we should know before the end of the day. Writer's strikes are nasty, the last one in 2007-2008 cost California $2.5 billion dollars.

Yep, $2.5 billion.

How do a stack of writers from movies and television and a whole bunch of new types of writing for streaming and more. It all adds up.

Because of one little thing.

We write the stories that people watch and that networks and studios and whomever has to show so that commercials and any other type of payments that "they get" and that they return some of it to us.

Yes, that's me on the right, with my Canadian Mountie cap. 

So right now, I'll give you a little more about writers and money and getting screwed. In fact there's a book called "The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have)" by Brooke A. Wharton. And yes, I have a copy.

And what everyone else is afraid of that networks let go not only writers but also shows that can't work and it spreads to almost every industry in California. There are around 13,000 writers in the WGA (Writer's Guild of America) but only about maybe a few hundred actually work.

Which means a lot of us writers are not making money at all.

So let's see what happens today

Coming up after today is about The Graduate and Easy Rider and why some people like them or not.
 
   

Monday, April 17, 2017

Finally got paid


Okay, so finally I got paid. Here's the final message to the producers.




Good day:

I am following up on this project on behalf of the steward, Mary.

I just would like to follow up on this payment of the Fees for this project as the Writer has advised that there are still payments which are outstanding for this project.

Please be reminded of the following as per the WGC independent Production Agreement:

Article A715 Rights Licensed

On payment of the Script Fees as provided herein, the Producer shall acquire, subject to Articles A710 to A712, an exclusive license to produce a single production made from the Script

Article A716
On the payment of the Production Fee stipulated in C10 and subject to payment of continuing Distribution Royalties as required by C11 or other payments as set out in C513 or C9 the Producer shall acquire the exclusive license for unlimited world distribution of a Feature Film, and unlimited world distribution, except theatrical distribution of a Television Production.


The Production Fee payment was due at the first day of principal photography, but is proceeded by the payment of the Script Fee. The payment of the Script  Fee allows the Producer to Produced the Script, but its the payment of the Production Fee that allows the Producer to acquire the rights to distribute.

As per Article A1306 of the IPA, remittances ( aka admin payment) are due to the WGC the 15th of the month following the earning of the fee by the Writer. Since the film has been produced already, please ensure that the remittances are received as soon as possible in order not to incur a late fee.

Kind Regards,
Kerrie

Agreement Administrator
Writers Guild of Canada


Hi Jim,

I am just doing the preliminary notice/ reminder.. I am not sure what Jasmine has done. But this certainly can build in our case that they were advised if we have to proceed with a grievance against them. Since Jasmine is away, I am just trying to keep things going so they are aware. Once Mary returns then perhaps a grievance will follow if nothing is accomplished by then.
Kerrie


9/28/2010 – 9am
Hello Kerrie

Jim was wired the balance of his payment yesterday.  The fringe payments are being prepared by Mary Robbie today and will be remitted by EP Canada as soon as possible.

Please let me know if there are any other outstanding issues.

Best regards

Andy Serson
Accountant
XYZ Productions Inc.


9/28/2010 6am PST
Payment has gone. Copy attached.
 
M. Robbie



9/28/2010 9:34am

We received $6,713.85.   Less $10 incoming wire charge and our 5% ($335.69), the total for you is $6,368.16.   Do you want to come by today to pick up the check?

Bob


 
Total time from the day I sent the 1st email – 14 days. The movie was made in 12 days. As you can see above, the payment should have been made on the first day of principal photography. In other words, they should have paid me on the day the camera and crew and actors started.

I really don't know if they were hiding my money or forgot it. This producer is notorious for "forgetting to pay". Imagine if the Guild wasn't there. I would have to chase them for a year or more. 

The payment above is only a final amount, the full amount was around $38,000 and with union dues, etc, it still was a nice little amount. If it wasn't for them, well... 

what do you think?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We're been over the top




I have to thank all of you for being over 1000 readers each week for the last year. Amazing. You are great. Mostly Americans - even Alaska - followed by the French and followed by England, Canada, Romania, Ukraine, Netherlands, Portugal, Germany and India.

Congratulations... 

More stuff to come and the finish of my not getting paid from the production company on Friday. 

And the Oscar went to someone else, but he let me hold it. 

It's heavy.

But I was close way back in 1976 for our short film finalist at the Academy Awards.

We did win the Canadian award for short film though. Eh?
   

Monday, April 10, 2017

Part 2 -- "but you owe me, please?"


Okay, this is Part 2 of how Jim keeps trying to get the money due him from a screenplay that was finished. It moves on... Mary (not real name as others are also not real names) is the WGC person, like WGA, they look after writers so we don't get screwed. They are nice people. You'll see "Mary" often.

Fake names but real events.


September 14, 2010 – 7:41am PST

Hi Jim,

Here is Jack’s response to my email.  Hope that takes care of everything….but we should check in on IMDB in the near future again just in case.  The WGC can petition to have changes as well, but it’s always easier if it comes from the production company….

Best,
Mary WGC


From: Jack@gmail.com [mailto:@gmail.com]
Sent: September 14, 2010 10:37 AM
To: Mary
Subject: Re: Town movie

Wire is going today, and no one is getting contributing writing credit. My AD-co-producer consolidated a couple locations and adjusted day and nights-- which isn't writing-- put that on IMDB. The actors did some line changes on day to make more organic to them, but there is only one writer on this and I will correct IMDB. Jim is the sole writer. It is hard to control people sometimes. My apologies. I will have Emmy advise you when Jim's been paid. Today. Thanks.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry


Dear Jack, Ellen & Susan,

I am writing to find out whether you have sent the wire payment for Jim Makichuk.  I have not received it in our trust account.   Please confirm if this has been sent and, if possible, send tracking information so we can keep an eye out for it.

For your reference, our wire info is attached, though you must have it since the option payment was received without issue.

Thank you.

Bob (my lawyer)
Ventura Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA  91364


September 14/2010 Time unknown.
Hi Bob
Susan is waiting forth invoice to come back from EP. The wire is in
process. The money should be in his account today. Mary will write you
and explain exactly where we are. I'm sorry for the delay. We are
working hard to get it o Jim as fast as possible.

Best

Ellen


On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 11:03 AM, Jim <badland@dslextreme.com> wrote:
Hi Ellen

Thanks for following up. Just found out your budgets, man, that must be hard as hell to produce a movie for under $1 million, and a Christmas movie too! I know what low budgets are like but it's a reality now for TV movies, I heard Hallmark pays about $400k or so, afraid those days of bigger budget TV movies are gone for all of us.

Again, thanks for your help on this issue.

Jim



-- Original Message -----
From: Jane
To: Jim ; mar

Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 12:15 PM
Subject: Fwd: Fwd: "Town" - Writer - Jim Makichuk Wire Instructions

Hi Jim, 

Mary, our production accountant needs your lawyers email address. Please advise. 

Best,Jane

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: mary robbiea@yahoo.ca>
Date: Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 11:48 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: "Town" - Writer - Jim Makichuk Wire Instructions
To: Jane@gmail.com>

I still need the lawyers email address if Rob wants me to copy him
me 


Many thanks 
Susan



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: mary robbie@
Date: Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 11:48 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: "Town" - Writer - Jim Makichuk Wire Instructions
To: Jane @gmail.com>

I still need the lawyers email address if Rob wants me to copy him
me 


Many thanks 
Susan


----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Liz
To: "Robbie@yahoo"
Sent: Thu, September 16, 2010 2:14:30 PM
Subject: Town that Xmas Forgot - WGC (Jim Makichuk)
Hi Mary,

Can you please have Jim complete the attached residency form and return to my attention as soon as possible?We must confirm his residency, as well as where the work was performed, before payment can be processed.

Thanks,


From: Jane@gmail.com>
To: mary @yahoo.ca>
Sent: Tue, September 16, 2010 Subject: Fwd: "Town" - Writer - Jim Makichuk Wire Instructions

Jim could you please complete and return the attached form.
The payroll company requires it as you can see.
If you need to fax our # is 905-545-4209
|Payroll Supervisor
EP Canada Film Services Inc.
Email: Website: www.epcanada.com
 

 
From: Jim
To: mary
Sent: Thu, September 16, 2010 5:27:43 PM
Subject: Re: Town that Xmas Forgot - WGC (Jim Makichuk)
Mary

I have the form, as you may know, this payment was due at least 2 weeks ago or more and due to some office mess-up to which WGC and my attorney responded.

I will sign this but hope it is the end of a long line of emails that promised a rush job, which it is not.

One question is that The screenplay was a spec script, written years ago and I'm not sure what to put in #3, do I choose A or B. I wrote the script in the US but it was used and performed in Canada.

Please email or call me as I would like to expedite the payment which now is contradictory to WGC rules for payment due date.

Jim Makichuk
(818)995-4742


You are right this is becoming a quite a boggle for what should be a simple thing.
I am sorry for that, but excuses or reasons why don't win ball games.
   
From what I read on the form I would think it would be B. Your services were performed in the US.
I will double check with EP first thing when they open in the morning and let you know as quickly as I can.
Hopefuly we can get this resolved and send you $$ off tomorrow.
 
Susan


September 17, 2010 7:02am PST

The WGC can apply a 2% per month interest charge, but I am hoping that this payment does not become overdue for that long.  If you’ve signed and sent back the form and if they don’t pay you today I can issue a Notice of Default on Monday letting them know that they currently haven’t secured the rights to your material and if they don’t rectify it within 5 days all the rights revert back to you.

Best,
Mary


September 17, 2010 – 10:30am PST
Phone call from Emma who was as frustrated as me and said they are making 3 movies back to back and barely able to figure out what’s going on. She said EP accts said that since I lived in USA, even after receiving the document I faxed, they couldn’t pay me.

Jane said she would go to a mysterious “Wayne” who could bypass all this b.s. and at least send $25k of the $34k to me Friday.


September 17 2010  12:53pm PST

Jim,
Bob sent the wire that we spoke about. The bank may have processed it after the daily cut off time so the $$ should hit your agents trust account Monday latest.   
 I have attached a copy of the wire.
As soon as EP Canada lets me know what the employee portion of the fringes are I'll send the rest.
In theory, they should let me know today. We both know where theory has gotten us so far.
I'll keep in touch
'll talk Monday

Take care 
Jane


September 17, 2010 1:13pm PST

Jim
Right.  I will let you know once it hits the account.

Bob (my lawyer)
Woodland Hills, CA  91364


                                        Final page comes Wednesday.



Saturday, April 8, 2017

But you owe me...


Okay, this is the first blog on how the company forgot to pay me for a movie they have finished. The letters in blue are me and my WGC person, same as WGA, both guilds are connected. Names of course have been changed. Starts below:

PART ONE

To Mary WGC (Writers Guild of Canada)


I have just been informed by a friend who spoke to Stan Charley yesterday who stated that Town that Forgot Christmas is or has been filmed. Since I have not been paid for the screenplay this strikes me as very odd. My first call tomorrow is to my lawyer followed by WGC, followed by a call to Hallmark here in Los Angeles to express my concerns.

Since the IPA says writers are paid on or before the first day of principal photography, I find this, if true, reprehensible. If not, Mr. Charley got his movies mixed up.


Jim Makichuk




Jim,

I'm Head of Production for XYZ, and you are right, this is totally egregious. Not intentional at all, but egregious. We are in production on the film (and beginning the second and third film), and it was my understanding and my production accountant's understanding that the writer's fees were being paid out of corporate.  This is how we did it on our last four films for the Syfy Channel (for a variety of reasons), and I have been waiting for a cost report -- where I would have caught that it hadn't been paid.  I didn't catch it, b/c I don't have the cost report yet-- which is simply a function of our accountant overwhelmed between post on the Syfy and production on these three films.  Suffice to say, corporate hadn't done it -- not out of any questionable intent -- they just assumed production had taken care of.  In any case, we are in production, and I will get this taken care first thing tomorrow morning. I or accounting will be in touch with you and your rep tomorrow.  Again, my apologies. Ultimately, it comes down on my head, no matter how it happened, it happened, and I'm getting you paid first thing tomorrow.  I fully understand if you want to call the WGC or the network.  I would feel the same.

Respectfully,

Jack
September 14, 2010  6:41am (cc copy to me)


Hi Jack, 

I spoke to Ella (Accountant). I've sent her Jim's signed contract. She is going to write Jim and explain how she is putting his payment through payroll. She is on it and he will be paid shortly. 

Best, 
Anna
Production Executive
XYZ Productions Inc.



September 14, 2010 6:56am (cc copy to me)

Good, please give me update in an hour. Thank you. This must happen this morning and Jim's lawyer should also be advised-- so Ella should copy him on the email to Jim. I want to know when the check is going to be in Jim's hands or money wired or whatever. Speak in an hour. Thanks.

Jack



September 14, 2010 – 7:13am PST
Hi Jim,

Thanks for bringing this to my attention – they have also just informed me that it’s been in production, but I would have never assumed that they didn’t tell you or pay you. Although given their general level of disorganization I suppose I was giving them far too much of the benefit of the doubt.

At least it seems like they want to remedy the situation.  If you don’t in fact hear anything today regarding payment, please let me know.  All I can do is ask that payment be made today, but it at least appears that that is what they are trying to do anyways.  I will follow up with Robert to make sure he lets me know that you’ve been paid as well so he knows we’re aware of the situation.

All their productions have been completely disorganized, so I’m trying to sort through them so I appreciate you making me aware of this.

I’ll send a follow up to Jack with the hopes this is resolved today, and if not then we’ll just have to move forward and inform them that without payment they don’t actually have the rights to your material.

All the best,
Mary  WGC



From: Jim [mailto:badland@dslextreme.com]
Sent: September 14, 2010 10:15 AM CST
To: Mary
Subject: Fw: Jim Makichuk

Mary

following email was sent to me Tues am. Am sending a following email. I just wonder if any other writers were not paid? Also there is a "contributing writer" credit, someone called DEF, whose credits seem to be assistant director and I wonder if he's WGC?

Anyways, will call you today. Seems like it'll work out.

Jim




September 14, 2010 7:21am PST
Hi Jim,

Where have you seen the “contributing writer” credit?  The credit notice they sent me simply had the writing credit listed as “Written By Jim Makichuk”.  The WGC doesn’t allow a contributing writer credit for MOWs and if it is an assistant director that would mean a credit arbitration.  I’ll also raise this concern with Jack.

I hope it is worked out today.  I still can’t believe they didn’t tell you it was going into production.  And, yes, they need to pay fringes too!

Best,

Mary WGC





Cc: @gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Jim Makichuk

Jack

Thanks for your reply, understand what happened, although it's almost the old stereotype, writers not getting paid (every writer has that story).
Again, appreciate your timely action





Jim: Thanks for your understanding. I know it is a cliche, and I know there are instances in the biz-- cashflow problems, whatever-- but this was an honest mistake. Anyway, thanks, and you and your lawyer will soon get email from accounting re wire I believe it is.
It's a great script by the way. I think you will be pleased with the movie.

Best,
Jack





From: Jim [mailto:badland@dslextreme.com]
Sent: September 14, 2010 10:30 AM CST
To: Mary
Subject: Re: Jim Makichuk

Mary
if you go to imdb, someone called Jonathan Wright has credit as a "contributing writer", and I think this is a guy who has a script with Chesler and did some cheap or no pay rewrites.

Jim





September 14, 2010 – 7:33am PST

OK, thanks – I’ve let Jack know that this is not a credit the WGC allows, especially seeing as they submitted a credit notice to us indicating that the only writing credit is “Written By Jim Makichuk”.  If they want to give a subsidiary writing credit to Jonathan, they need to file a contract and fringes with us at WGC scale, and if he’s also a director then we have to run a credit arbitration.  Hopefully that will make them remedy the situation…

I’ll let you know what I hear, but if you do receive confirmation of payment let me know!

Best,
Mary WGC




September 14, 2010 – 7:41am PST

Hi Jim,

Here is Jack’s response to my email.  Hope that takes care of everything….but we should check in on IMDB in the near future again just in case.  The WGC can petition to have changes as well, but it’s always easier if it comes from the production company….
Best,
Mary

  

From: jack@gmail.com [mailto:@gmail.com]
Sent: September 14, 2010 10:37 AM
To: Mary
Subject: Re: Town That Christmas Forgot

Wire is going today, and no one is getting contributing writing credit. My AD-co-producer consolidated ouple locations and adjusted day and nights-- which isn't writing-- put that on IMDB. The actors did some line changes on day to make more organic to them, but there is only one writer on this and I will correct IMDB. Jim is the sole writer. It is hard to control people sometimes. My apologies. I will have Roberta advise you when Jim's been paid. Today. Thanks. 




This is the first part of how I got paid. More Monday. I'm fiddling with the pasting so I have big gaps on this first one.